Reviewed by Rowena C. Ruiz
Have you ever lived with a relative you’ve met for the first time? What was that experience like? Aliette’s On a Red Station Drifting records what happens when the Le Thi family meets one of their relatives for the first time.
The encounter takes place when Linh comes to Prosper Station seeking refuge. The Ancestress, the Mind that manages the planet, accepts Linh, but Quyen, the System Administrator is wary of her. Linh does not fit the mold of a refugee and so Quyen seeks to put her in her place – to mold her into something she is not.
What follows is a clash of wills as Linh and Quyen struggle to assert themselves. Added to this is the tension that is generated by the realization that the Ancestress is malfunctioning. There is also the problem of missing mem-implants, a visit from a Grand Mastery of Design Harmony and the imminent arrival of the Emperor’s Embroidered Guard. The last event is alarming because it could spell the annihilation of the Le Thi family.
Throughout the book, we see the similarities between Linh and Quyen. Both of them occupy positions of authority and are used to being in control . Linh as a Magistrate and Quyen as System Administrator of Prosper Station. Both women hide insecurities and uncertainties about their lives. Linh has guilty feelings of leaving Planet Twenty-Three because it was threatened by the imminent invasion of rebel forces. Added to this are the feelings of loneliness and awkwardness that come from being a newcomer to a family that she is just getting to know. She struggles to fit in but her former position as Magistrate makes this difficult.
Quyen, on the other hand, has attained her position because she is the lesser partner in a great marriage. Her feelings of insecurity and uncertainty are brought to the fore when she meets Linh. This is what motivates her to make life on the Station uncomfortable for Linh. Knowing that the Ancestress is failing, she battles fear and loneliness at the thought of losing her.
Both Linh and Quyen use the façade of pride and arrogance as a defense mechanism to hide their feelings. These attitudes lead to misunderstanding and resentment of each other. Both however, realize that if something drastic is not done, their family could be destroyed. Both of them decide that something must change if they are to save the family and the station. As Linh puts it: “…. a family might quarrel but should never tear itself apart.”
This is the second de Bodard book that I’ve read. I definitely recommend that others read it too. What stands out is the emphasis on family relationships and how we interact with each other. We are presented with the challenge to look beyond the obvious, to see the real person that lies behind the masks we wear. We are also forced to examine ourselves and question our motives on how we treat those whom we meet for the first time. Are the judgment calls that we make always true? And as an extension of our families, we too must ask ourselves, how to we treat the rest of humanity as a whole? For the reality is, that the whole of the human race is one big family.
Rating: 5 charms
There are two different editions of On A Red Station Drifting. The e-book edition has a different cover from the print edition. We purchased an ebook copy for the sake of this review.